Art Exhibits at Texas Discovery Gardens

Past Discovery Gallery Exhibitions    Sculpture Exhibitions     Public Art Project     About our Curator

About our Exhibitions

At Texas Discovery Gardens, visitors explore the natural world and learn about effective ways to restore, conserve and preserve nature in the urban environment, with a focus on gardening organically and sustainably.

Our art exhibitions bring to light environmental topics including organics, recycling, and sustainability. Artists and exhibitions are hand-picked to further the Gardens’ mission and reflect on our connection to nature in a different light.

The Discovery Gallery is open to the public, and school groups make a special trip through the space during their field trips. Often, kids who show less interest in the science classes or butterfly house light up when they walk through the gallery and ask question after question. It’s another way to reach out to young and old alike.

Past Discovery Gallery Exhibitions

A Natural State of Affair
A Natural State of Affair
with Anna Palmer

A Natural State of Affair
Photographs by Anna Palmer
September 22, 2012 through December 31, 2012

About the Exhibition: In a city more well known for skyscrapers and shopping, Anna Palmer sees the abundant nature found around Dallas and captures moments, large and small, with her photographs. She focuses on a vibrant green fly on an orange in a compost pile, water droplets on a window, and zooms in on birds like the elegant Great Blue Heron.

To round out her exhibition at Texas Discovery Gardens, Palmer added photos of a different nature – images of her visits to the State Fair of Texas® over the past 10 years. The yellow plastic ducks of a Midway game complement their live feathered counterparts.

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: I have always been transported by the photographs of Anna Palmer. I first noticed her work with the Dallas Morning News. She has a unique vision with poignant revelation. Her naturalist photos tell of her close relationship with her environment. Anna has attended the Texas State Fair for many years and brings her perspective to photographing this Texas tradition as well.

Artist Statement: Photography is the medium I use to show how I view my world, and nature provides my favorite canvas. The interplay of light and shadow, color and composition in a single moment appeals to my sense of urgency to capture and share it. Most of the time I am not actively looking for the subject, it just appears and I shoot.

--Anna Palmer

Truth Beauty Chaos
Truth Beauty Chaos: an Evolution of Consciousness
with Trayc Claybrook

Truth Beauty Chaos: an Evolution of Consciousness
May 26, 2012 through August 31, 2012
Mixed media by Trayc Claybrook

About the Exhibition: “Truth Beauty Chaos: an Evolution of Consciousness” preceded Trayc Claybrook’s extraordinary Peace Pilot video presentation in the fall of 2012. Her textured illustrations and paintings translate nature as a teacher and partner. The artist, filmmaker, and professor at the Art Institute of Dallas created encaustic and mixed media presentations for the exhibition.

To involve the public in part of the exhibition, Claybrook also led a Community Art Happening/Installation in the Texas Discovery Gardens lobby. Participants decorated prayer flags and affixed them to a maple tree, which was displayed in the lobby throughout the exhibition.

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Trayc Claybrook’s work explores the evolving question of our place in the world: with ourselves, with nature, with evolving. She utilizes a diversity of mediums and materials, breaking off the picture plane to offer the viewer an invitation to enter and reflect. Trayc finds value in the past and moves forward incorporating remnants and recycled aspects to give view to the new. Evidence of her work as printmaker, film maker as well as painter can be seen in this work.

Artist Statement: Old patterns, oil paint, vintage wall paper and highly textural surfaces are pieced together with images of the human figure and other visual metaphors to make the viewer feel at home in this world and to begin to distinguish the amazing from the unknown. The works are a partnership between viewer and artist; the viewer brings their experiences to the work and the artist provides a stage for them to play out. The color palettes are cool and nostalgic and the playful imagery is an invitation to dream and discover one’s self again.

They facilitate a return to one’s true spirit and to nature, the finding and retuning of one’s own internal compass. Fear has no place here; only love. My work offers a purposeful glimpse into a positive deference towards life and a reminder that nothing is impossible and that all are one.

-- Trayc Claybrook

Echoes of Remembered Gardens
Echoes of Remembered Gardens
with Susan Lecky

Echoes of Remembered Gardens
January 27, 2012 through April 29, 2012
Acrylic and colored pencil by Susan Lecky

About the Exhibition: “Echoes of Remembered Gardens,” by Dallas artist Susan Lecky, livened up the winter landscape with vibrant, geometric patterns and colors. Working with both acrylic on canvas and colored pencil on paper, Lecky hinted at natural patterns and botanic prints. She spilled the exhibit into the lobby with an 84” by 81” six panel piece, “Forgotten-Remembered, Then, Now, Forever.”

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Upon introduction to Susan Lecky’s work several years ago, I knew it would be perfect for the Discovery Gallery. In the midst of winter, her vibrant stained glass like compositions were a welcome respite of color and form. The dynamic interplay between the hard line geometric and the organically undulating plant and flower forms bring forth a dialogue of Nature and the impact of man. Her pieces are at once botanical illustration and architectural constraint.

Artist Statement: "I am intrigued with the random and fixed patterning found in nature and how the intrusion of human-made forms interacts with these patterns.

I have personalized the natural forms in these paintings so that they hint at something real, but are not. Therefore the viewers, with their own background of visual experiences, will be sparked to associate memories and feelings with these shapes that are meaningful to them. The geometric divisions become architectonic forces that push back and then forward on or amongst the patterned surface of the canvas. Thus a delicate interrelationship is established between the structured and organic elements which I hope will cause a dialogue between myself and the viewers -- I present, through form and color, my feeling about man and nature, and the viewers are stimulated to bring, due to their own sensibilities, additional interpretations to these relationships.

I first investigated these ideas on a single panel format and expanded this search using triptych and six panel formats. The relationships between the forms are explored in the central panel and the two side or top and bottom panels - the center being micro - the sides or tops and bottoms being enlargements of the central forms - becoming macro.

These paintings are the result of this continuing investigation -- everything is here, one can only see so much, what do we see, what do we feel?"

-- Susan Lecky

The Nature of Art
The Nature of Art
with Anne Neal and Silvia Thornton

The Nature of Art
September 16, 2011 through December 31, 2011
Encaustic, glass by Anne Neal and Silvia Thornton

About the Exhibition: “The Nature of Art,” featuring Anne Neal and Silvia Thornton, played with a broad theme through different uses of encaustic (beeswax and pigment) and fused glass, among other media.

“The concept is to showcase art that results when an artist’s inspiration is applied to gifts from the earth and nature,” Silvia Thornton said. Elements used include beeswax, linseed oil, tree resin, sand, paper, wood, metals, micas, leaves, twigs and sea coral.

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: I had previously seen collaborative pieces involving Silvia Thornton and Anne Neal, and wanted to see them continue that exploration. The interplay of found natural forms, recycled metals and wax was counter played by the glass encasement of these elements in form and in some cases, in actuality. The work beautifully celebrates the elements comprising our natural world.

Artist Statements: “As a Libra, I strive for balance and equilibrium. Sculpting with glass fascinates me because the fragility of glass resists efforts to harness and direct it into a sculptural form while retaining its sparkle and delicacy. My work is done with kilns and I sculpt glass by manipulating it with temperature and gravity.

I am drawn to the technical challenges of glass as a 3 dimensional media, especially when mixing disparate materials with the glass. I am inspired by organic forms and textiles, which are irregular, can drape, and exhibit fluidity. Glass most easily aligns into flat planes and straight edges; I enjoy the challenge of molding it into organic forms with curves and folds.”

-- Anne Neal

“The depths of the soul can be reached only through quiet moments. When we are contemplative, we have the potential to learn about ourselves and how we fit within the web of existence. Trees can be our companions in this exploration. Extending in two directions--one toward the dark and the other toward the light--trees are great living symbols of the yin/yang principals of harmony and balance.

The inspiration for this body of work comes from an often explored theme, the love of nature and the emotions evoked from places and events. This work illustrates our need to move inward for development and outward to the light. The latest work is the culmination of several years of working with beeswax and paper. I am charmed with the range of textures, unpredictability, smell and versatility of the medium, all of which excite me as an artist.”

-- Silvia Thornton

Outside the Back Door
Outside the Back Door
with Carroll Swenson-Roberts

Outside the Back Door
May 14, 2011 through August 27, 2011
Pencil, Ink, Pastels, and Natural Objects by Carroll Swenson-Roberts

About the Exhibition: Visitors discovered what lies “Outside the Back Door” with Texas Discovery Gardens’ summer art exhibition. Using pencil, ink, pastel and natural objects like leaves and seeds, artist Carroll Swenson-Roberts captured the essence of a summer garden.

“All of the parts of the world are forever changing and individual,” Swenson-Roberts said. “You can observe this in the way a tiny seed grows into a large flower. Each bug and bird is slightly different as it becomes part of a pattern that swarms and flies above the grocery store in the evening. I can see this in my neighborhood and out my back door and I find joy in that.”

Pieces like the 30” x 24” “Tomato Cage” explored the colors and patterns found in a garden, from the plants to the wildlife.

“When I make my marks, I am trying to understand and celebrate the details that make up the whole world we live in,” Swenson-Roberts said.

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Carroll Swenson Roberts is an artist, a teacher and an organic gardener. Her work revels in appreciation of what is found outside her back door. Overhead, in the rows and even underground, she turns her observations into love notes to nature, and into invitations to fall in love with the shiniest tomato and the most angular beetle. Her work is playful and uplifting. You can almost smell summer there.

Artist Statement: “I believe in art. The act of making a mark changes the definition of what was there before. I believe in noticing moments. To make art is to notice a moment, or a thing, a person, a thought, a fantasy, a shape, a line, or a mark. My favorite page of Maurice Sendak’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, reads, “The walls became the world all around.”

To draw/sculpt/photograph/paint a thing, a mark, a dash, a thought, a feeling, a moment, is to have it become the world all around you. When I have done this, then I have truly noticed what I am seeing, thinking, and feeling. It is the capturing and examination of my life. If the viewers can see the moment also, then a communication of understanding has taken place.

--Carroll Swenson-Roberts

Earth, Petal, Wing / Tierra, Pétalo, Ala
Earth, Petal, Wing /
Tierra, Pétalo, Ala
with Cynthia Padilla and Julio Suarez

Earth, Petal, Wing / Tierra, Pétalo, Ala
January 28, 2011 through April 24, 2011
Watercolor, Acrylic by Cynthia Padilla and Julio Suarez

About the Exhibition: Earth, Petal, Wing showcased the interpretation of natural subject matter by Cynthia Padilla and Julio Suarez, Texas-based artists who share a passion for nature and the natural sciences and an appreciation for the fragility and simple beauty found in nature.

Using varied artistic tools, Padilla and Suarez presented paintings, drawings and prints based on direct observation of natural science subjects. These included seashells, flowers, feathers and insects taken from nature journals, notebook sketches, plein air renderings and personal photography. The works were naturalistic, realistic and stylized and demonstrated the versatility of the creativity of the two artists and their respective approaches to self-expression.

Why I chose this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Julio Suarez and Cynthia Padilla are botanical illustrators with very different styles and approaches. I felt that the dynamic interplay would work well to showcase their unique vision and singular love of nature. Both artists teach Botanical Illustration and seek to inspire young and old to observe life and document the experience through nature journals. Engaging in the meditative act of seeing quietly and thoroughly deepens ones appreciation of the world around us. I feel this exhibit lends itself to that end.

Artist Statements: Cynthia Padilla is a lecturer and instructor for universities, natural science & history museums, arboreta and major arts centers internationally. Cynthia travels the world, sketchbook in hand, documenting wildflowers in windswept Greek isles, fallen fruit in abandoned courtyards of India, shells along Portugal’s crashing shores, glimmering butterflies in Thailand, and hushed tropical rainforests of Central America (her ancestral home).

Her love of art and nature has now combined in the perfect union--the botanical arts--With worldwide exhibitions, popular lectures and workshops, and exotic travels. How could she have known that the strict training received so many summers ago while volunteering to sketch pinned bugs and pressed wildflowers at a dusty little nature center would someday be her life’s work?!

View rare antiquarian engravings hand colored by Padilla.

-- Cynthia Padilla

Julio Suarez recalls drawing pictures of animals on small colored paper pads at age four. Throughout his educational and professional life, he has integrated his interest in art through drawing, designing and painting.

The Cuban-American artist was raised in New York and graduated from New York University and moved to Plano, Texas in 1988.

His artwork primarily involves painting in acrylic and watercolor in the style of the post-impressionists and Fauvists, particularly Matisse. Mixed media works, printmaking and graphic design are also part of his work. As an illustrator, he has created personal greeting cards and marketing products. His artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his paintings are part of private collections throughout the United States, Canada, China and Japan.

Julio specializes in teaching children and youth in diverse educational settings both in the public and private sectors. He has been teaching art for twenty years through various programs and is a member of the faculty at Holy Rosary Catholic School in Arlington, TX. He is an artist-in-residence with Big Thought (Young Audiences of North Texas) since 1995 and with Young Audiences of Northeast Texas in Tyler since 2007. Julio works annually with special needs children through the Plano Parks and Recreation Therapeutic program for over ten years. He has been an art enrichment teacher and mentor for private students.

-- Julio Suarez

Bringing the Trinity River to Life
Bringing the Trinity River to Life
with members of Studio Art & Soul

Bringing the Trinity River to Life
September 2 through December 31, 2010
Watercolor, Oil, Acrylic by members of Studio Art & Soul

About the Exhibition: Guests followed the Trinity River through the eyes of ten artists from Studio Art & Soul. Nearly 40 works in oil, acrylic and encaustic covered many viewpoints of the river in an exhibit called “Bringing the Trinity River to Life.”

Each artist painted inspirations from the Trinity and its surrounding life. The paintings functioned like a magnifying lens, showing viewers the artistic side to the landscapes, history, and ecosystem of this aquatic lifeline.

Artists hoped to highlight the importance of this natural resource, and the exhibit ran in conjunction with educational displays on the Trinity River (including a fact-filled display on the health of our water systems by the City of Dallas Stormwater Management).

What I enjoyed about this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: This show was a great opportunity to see paintings created side by side within an single studio. The theme informed the focus. The interpretations were diverse and colorful.

About Studio Art & Soul: Founded in 2008, Studio Art & Soul had its origins in the Creative Arts Center of Dallas. After several years of studying at The Creative Arts Center under the instruction of Kathleen Dello Stritto, the founding group of ten rented a historical building in the Cedars Neighborhood of Dallas and formed a full-time working studio.

The artists have participated in both group and solo exhibits. This November will be the third year the studio has been included in the Cedars Open Studio Tour. In May, 2010, the artists exhibited their work at the Wine Therapist. In addition, the studio has hosted several art classes.

Studio Art & Soul’s ties to other community arts organizations, through events, membership and the activities of its studio and members, continue to make us an integral and vibrant part of the fabric of the Dallas arts community.

-- Studio Art & Soul

The Nature of Flowers
The Nature of Flowers
with Sharen Chatterton

The Nature of Flowers
March 22, 2010 through July 31, 2010
Acrylic by Sharen Chatterton

About the Exhibition: Visitors enjoyed a stroll through a garden of vibrant flowers and butterflies—captured on canvas—with the inaugural exhibit for local artist and gardener Sharen Chatterton.

Chatterton paints almost exclusively in acrylic, utilizing the bright colors to create garden scenes full of life. Her effervescent paintings draw viewers in and encourage them to leave with a smile. Both kids and art lovers will enjoy looking at colorful butterflies and flowers, in addition to the occasional still life.

Each artist painted inspirations from the Trinity and its surrounding life. The paintings functioned like a magnifying lens, showing viewers the artistic side to the landscapes, history, and ecosystem of this aquatic lifeline.

Artists hoped to highlight the importance of this natural resource, and the exhibit ran in conjunction with educational displays on the Trinity River (including a fact-filled display on the health of our water systems by the City of Dallas Stormwater Management).

What I enjoyed about this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Sharen Chatterton’s paintings are a vibrant feast for the eyes. We are hungry for color and life after winter’s brown. Her love of Nature is evident in her composed paintings. When we know and appreciate the natural world, we strive to take care of it. This artist conveys that appreciation and that message.

Artist Statement: Two of my favorite things are gardening and creating art. I love the colors, the smells, and the peace and solitude that my time spent in the garden and in front of a canvas brings to me. I endeavor to express my love of nature in each of my pieces. I try to capture the beauty created by an undeniably talented God. I am a painter of smiles; each piece I create has to have that smile factor. When people look at the piece, it should make them smile--glad to be alive to enjoy all the beauty that is around them.

There is such brilliance and beauty in all of nature. I attempt to capture these beautiful creations on canvas.

My hope is that my paintings will not only inspire you to smile each time you view them, but that they will inspire you to be a better steward of our earth. Enjoy my humble attempt to capture the beauty around me.

-- Sharen Chatterton

 Global Swarming: Reflection and Exploration of Colony Collapse Disorder
Global Swarming: Reflection and Exploration of Colony Collapse Disorder
with Texas WAX/Dallas

Inaugural Exhibition Global Swarming: Reflection and Exploration of Colony Collapse Disorder
September 4, 2009 through January 3, 2010
Encaustic, multiple artists with Texas WAX/Dallas

About the Exhibition: Where would we be without pollinators in our natural world? How would this affect food production? What are the environmental, social and economic impacts of this? Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon affecting honeybees. There is a perfect storm created by pesticides, introduced pathogens, viruses and perhaps GMO foods. Research is ongoing in this critical area. To illuminate this plight, Texas WAX/Dallas created a group show called Global Swarming. The group felt that powerful communication can be shared through the visual experience.

Each artist painted inspirations from the Trinity and its surrounding life. The paintings functioned like a magnifying lens, showing viewers the artistic side to the landscapes, history, and ecosystem of this aquatic lifeline.

Artists hoped to highlight the importance of this natural resource, and the exhibit ran in conjunction with educational displays on the Trinity River (including a fact-filled display on the health of our water systems by the City of Dallas Stormwater Management).

What I enjoyed about this exhibit, by curator Janet Reynolds: Beeswax highlighting Colony Collapse, it seemed like a natural medium to use to bring into awareness this critical situation. I was working with Texas WAX Dallas, a collective of artists meeting to share technique and experience. I proposed the show concept. It was enthusiastically received. I then proposed it to TDG director, Melissa Martin, who also met the idea with enthusiasm. We created diverse works exploring the plight of our wax creating pollinators to inspire public dialog. It was an honor to be the inaugural show for the re-opening of Texas Discovery Gardens and the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House & Insectarium.

-- Texas WAX/Dallas

Sculpture Exhibitions

Throughout the years, we have included seasonal sculpture displays inside our Butterfly House and out in the Gardens.

Texas Discovery Gardens is happy to partner with El Centro / Bill J Priest Industrial Arts and Technologies Department to showcase students’ metal sculptures each fall. Led by instructors Byron Zarrabi and Chris Wood, students present welded and mixed media sculptures that they’ve worked on throughout the semester.

During the State Fair of Texas in 2010, the Fall Garden Exhibition featuring local artists extended from the Lagoon to our Butterfly House. Dozens of sculptors presented a diverse collection, curated by Lottie Minick.

The next year, ceramic artists Lori and Dan Dudley with Dirt on Your Skirt Studio in Carrolton showcased their whimsical nature themed art. In amongst the clay, they tested new ways to make papier mache insect figurines withstand the humidity and water inside the conservatory.

An experiment in sustainability, sociology and art, the first Book Berm project by VET and Sheila Cunningham was built in Texas Discovery Gardens’ shade garden during the fall of 2011. The artists made a berm out of old, unused books, phone books, computer parts, soil and mulch. Visitors were encouraged to walk through the berm and see the decomposition of the books. They proved sturdier than we thought, and the berm remained intact until it was dismantled a few months later. Another book berm can be found at the Creative Arts Center.

Other sculptors include Jackie McLelland, Charise Adams and Pascale Pryor.

Public Art Project: Imago

“Imago,” a series of elegant hand-blown glass and steel hanging sculptures depicting the natural world, was installed September 2011 in our two-story lobby. Vancouver artists Michael Vandermeer and Cheryl Hamilton, with i.e. creative, had been fabricating pieces for the sculpture for a whole year.

Enter the vestibule of the Texas Discovery Gardens and look up to see the Flower Blossoms, the first of seven sculptures designed by ie creative depicting themes from the world of the insect biosphere that make up our newest public art installation, Imago.

Seven floating sculptures are made of hand blown glass flowers attached to polished stainless steel stems wrapped with wisps of mirror polished grass.

About ie creative:

The artist team, ie creative, works in a studio on Vancouver’s Granville Island, home to a large community of artists as well as the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Cheryl Hamilton is a conceptual artist with training in the technique of glass blowing from Alberta’s Red Deer College and Seattle’s Pilchuck Glass School. Her skills in glass forming have created magnificent and elegant floral forms in this commission.

Michael Vandermeer is a sculptor whose current artistic practice is informed by his training in Nuclear Physics and he continues to combine his remarkable aptitude for engineering, metallurgy, electronics and chemistry with his art.

Artists Michael Vandermeer and Cheryl Hamilton of i.e. creative


City of Dallas Public Art Program:

The City of Dallas Public Art Program was established by ordinance in 1988. The ordinance provides that all appropriations for the City capital improvement projects include an amount ranging from .75% to 1.5% of the total project appropriation to be used for the design services of artists and the commissioning of artwork. Since its inception, the Public Art Program has been administered by the City's Office of Cultural Affairs and more than 80 public art projects have been commissioned and installed in Dallas For more information about the City of Dallas Public Art Program, consult the Office of Cultural Affairs website:

Our Curator, Brenda McKinney:

Brenda McKinney Brenda McKinney was born in Beloit, Wisconsin. Raised in Dallas, Texas and working in Carrollton, Texas since 1999. McKinney earned her BFA in Fashion Design from the University of North Texas. After many years in the Fashion Industry she returned to school and earned her MFA in Painting from Texas Woman’s University. Her works crosses media from painting to fiber and small sculptural artworks.

Her work has been exhibited in the US and aboard including exhibitions at the Richmond Art Gallery Richmond, BC, Canada, the Dozsa Gyorgy Cultural Centre, Mill Gallery Nyiracsad, Hungary and her work was included in a traveling group exhibition to Spain, Sweden, Lithuania, Romania, and in Sicily, Italy.

She has won awards for her artwork, which have been published in both academic and popular culture venues. Her artwork is included in permanent collections in Texas including Texas Woman’s University, Institute of Health Sciences in Houston, Texas, UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas and Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Oncology Center and several prestigious private collections.

McKinney is an active advocate for the arts in the Dallas Area serving as the President of the Dallas Area Fiber Artist and past president to Texas Visual Arts Association. Currently she is acting as the curator to the Discovery Gallery at Texas Discovery Garden. She has been actively teaching art in the local university/colleges for over 10 years.

About our Founding Curator:

When Texas Discovery Gardens’ then-director, Melissa Martin, decided to further our mission of environmental education through art expression, she turned to longtime volunteer and supporter Janet Reynolds. The two worked together to present our inaugural exhibition during our Grand Opening Celebration for our Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium.

Janet and Melissa formed our art exhibition program, and Janet curated each show with creativity and dedication until 2016, when she moved to Arizona to start the next chapter in life. Her final show at Texas Discovery Gardens featured women who had been painting in her studio for more than a decade together.